Whether you’re a seasoned legal marketer, new to the profession or legal industry, taking the time to recalibrate what success looks like and maximize the value in your role is a vital professional development tool. It takes many different skills to be successful, but first and foremost, your ability to build relationships and gain credibility in the eyes of the partners and among your team is key. As we move toward the end of the year, and the time of self-reflection and year-end reviews, we have compiled a few of our top strategies for success in the legal marketing profession.
Client Service Mindset
Your clients are the Firm’s attorneys. Be responsive to their emails, phone calls, and general inquiries. Since many marketing professionals are bombarded daily with requests from their attorneys, keeping a running “to-do” list enables you to track your progress. I personally like to keep emails unread in my inbox until I have completed whatever task they require – trust me, nothing is more motivating than wanting a clean inbox! Even if you are unable to produce an answer or remedy to their problem immediately, acknowledge their request and let them know you are working towards a solution. Quick attention to your attorney’s and supervisor’s needs and requests will immediately show that you are a reliable part of the team. Also take that opportunity to set expectations. For example, if their request is asking for research on a Firm client, give them a projected delivery date and confirm that it is acceptable. Being able to think ahead in this way can set you apart from others.
You may have noticed that attorneys often go 100 miles a minute. You may also have noticed that every attorney is different. Your ability to a) keep up and b) flex your work style to that of your partner client is invaluable. In your work experience, I bet you’ve come across Partner X – an outgoing, personable attorney who loves to network and is a true rainmaker. You’ve also probably come across Partner Y, a more introverted attorney who hates the idea of selling themselves and has a keen attention to detail. One may prefer follow ups via email, while the other prefers you dropping by their office. Maybe they still provide edits by hand. If so, print out the documents to be reviewed and you’ll likely receive their feedback quicker. Both will likely have very high expectations and demand a lot from you. The attorneys you work with in the Firm will require different strategies but recognizing this will get you faster responses and results. Learning how to flex your style to provide outstanding service to each of them is a skill few have mastered.
One of my favorite mantras is “under-promise, over-deliver”. As we touched on in the client service mindset section above, setting expectations can be a great tool. If you are asked for a deliverable on a Monday that you think you can have done by Wednesday, but you aren’t positive, promise that you can deliver “no later than the end of the week.” If something comes up and it takes you until Friday, you have still delivered on time. And if you are able to deliver on Wednesday as you originally anticipated, you end up looking like an overachiever. When working on longer term projects, a smart tactic to adopt is providing weekly status reports on the progress of ongoing projects. Don’t wait for others to check in; be proactive, take the initiative, and let them know how things are progressing. This also gives you the opportunity to ask follow-up questions or share any observations you have so far.
Create a system to track your own personal return on investment (ROI). How many projects have you worked on? How many have resulted in a new client engagement? How many were dead-end projects with no results – you never heard another word about the project? Being able to provide an ROI report to your manager will be useful when you are asked where you are spending your time or why the department needs additional resources, or why your efforts may constitute a raise or a promotion.
Always stay “one step ahead” of your attorneys – anticipate their needs and wants. When you first start a new role, this may be difficult. An ideal first course of business is to conduct a “listening tour” and get to know the people you’ll be working with. As you learn the habits and goals of your attorneys, you will be able to be more proactive. Come fully prepared to each meeting with all of the resources they may ask for. Think of it in terms of what you would ask for if someone was coming to meet with you: provide the reasoning behind the task at hand; give research to support the reasoning; outline the costs to perform the task; identify who the target audience is; if there’s a potential issue, or question to be addressed, come with a proposed solution, or a few ideas to show that you’ve already thought things through. After a meeting, take the initiative to summarize the talking points and recap any outstanding to-dos, identifying the responsible party and estimated completion dates. You will immediately add value to the meeting, and this puts you in a more strategic position.
Make Them Look Good
Make your attorneys look good and make their lives easier. Look for things to do, even if it means going out of your way to do so, that can make your attorneys look good internally or with clients. For example, if one of your partners has a meeting scheduled with a prospective client, provide them with research on this client to prepare them well for the meeting, even if they did not request the information. If they are attending a conference or networking event, do a once over of the client list and provide insights on who will be there, who they should target, and where the firm may already have relationships established.
Professional visibility, both internally and externally, can be beneficial to a legal marketing professional at any level. Consider volunteering to participate in firm events such as a United Way campaign or holiday toy drive. Join the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and become active in the local chapter. Make friends inside your firm in other departments (think Professional Development, IT, Recruiting, etc.). Each time you contribute in a positive and substantial way, you will become known for going beyond what is expected and be the kind of professional everyone wants on their team – one with a “can do, will do” attitude!
If you have ever wondered why attorneys still talk about a former BD or Marketing person they used to work with, many times it’s because that person was a clear and concise communicator, with a client service mindset, that set expectations and always delivered, and was extremely adaptable. Mastering even one of these skills can truly set you apart; and if you can master all of them, you may just become an unstoppable legal marketing professional!
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If you are interested speaking more to our recruiters about professional development and mapping your career path, we’d love to hear from you! Actively seeking a new role? Check out our career center to view our latest opportunities at top law firms across North America that are seeking high-value talent.